Give your customers something to talk about

This article is cross posted via the All Things WOM Blog.

Brand conversations that once took place between two real people by telephone or postal mail””then by one frustrated real person and one finicky automated response system by phone or email””are now taking place between real people once more in a very public manner on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. (Industry analysts like Jeremiah Owyang are predicting the increased automation of these online interactions, but we”™ll save that for another day.)

Social media has once more enabled the concept of scalable human engagement””a real response, from a real person, in real time. Satisfied and dissatisfied customers alike are telling more and more people about their experiences with your brand on social networks. As a savvy brand, you can keep your ear to the ground to hear the rumblings of a disgruntled customer as well as the cheers of a loyal fan and respond as necessary.

Listening and responding to customers when they are happy, confused, and yes, disgruntled, is a great way to build word of mouth goodness. Failure to engage at all can leave customers confused and alienated””it”™s like owning a storefront and leaving the Closed sign swinging in the window during posted business hours.

Rather than slapping the wrists of frequent offenders, let”™s take a look at brands that boost positive Word of Mouth conversations by engaging with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Be clear about how customers can best reach your team

Some brands, like Geico, clearly state the use of specific channels, and redirect questions and comments that fall outside of the stated purpose. If you choose not to address certain topics on social channels, at the very least, guide customers to where they can seek answers or issue a formal complaint.

Thank your social advocates

People frequently mine their social networks for advice and recommendations: where to eat, which bank to use, how to get out a stubborn stain. Tune in to conversations about your product or service and thank individuals that are giving you a nod. Check out two great examples from ING Direct Canada and HomeAway.

 

Guide your confused customers

Many customers that communicate with your brand are sentiment-neutral and seeking answers. Responding and letting them know you are listening creates a sense of goodwill. Leave them hanging without a response? They may feel slighted. Check out this very human example from Whole Foods Metro Detroit“”it”™s even okay to correct the record when you provide misinformation.

Followed up seconds later by this:

Assist your angered customers

We can all relate- when something goes pear shaped, sometimes you just want to be heard. Acknowledging a customer”™s frustration can go a long way, even if you can”™t resolve the issue. When you can provide a solution, it can make a world of difference. Look how a simple response from General Electric helped cool off a conversation with a frustrated fridge owner.

 

Still not convinced that you should be engaging with your customers? Check out this surprising stat from Office Depot:

How does your brand respond to customer engagement? Let me know in the comments.

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